STASI: Tailors of Fear

It goes without saying that we have all seen moments on social media where someone talks about Communism, Eastern Block, Soviet Union, and now Russia and they are so-called experts, but many of those experts were born in Eastern Bloc countries in the 1980s or 1990s and have no true knowledge or experience with how intelligence or military doctrine worked or what the secret police’s modus operandi were.

Let us begin this post with a joke, a true joke that may land you in prison for life in Eastern Germany GDR.

It used to be a joke in our house that neighbours listening in on each other were using “STASI” techniques.

Even if this was a joke, it was said—and I believe it is still said—that “STASI” strategies are employed by corporations to undermine data security or conceal the illegal operations of secret services.

“These are STASI methods!” is a frequent saying.

But who exactly were these “STASI”?

I’ve already explored the GDR’s secret police, known as the STASI, in previous audio episodes.

Previously, the “German Democratic Republic” (GDR) was an autonomous state that ruled over eastern Germany from 1949 until 1990.

However, by Western terms, it was a Soviet-influenced dictatorship rather than a democracy.

There was authoritarian rule by the all-powerful “Socialist Party of Germany” (SED).

Her underling secret service, the STASI, was her preferred instrument for solidifying control.

This is an acronym for “Ministry of State Security,” or “MfS,” which was established during the Cold War in the GDR in the early 1950s.

Images of a common opponent affected politics in both the East and the West at the time.

The SED was afraid of losing control, so they labelled opposition figures as “counter-revolutionaries,” “class enemies,” and “pests of the people.”

The STASI also began using these exceedingly derogatory names.

To forestall a “counter-revolution,” state security was tasked with establishing an all-encompassing secret service and a terrifying secret police, free of legal or media restraints. The STASI also operated as an auxiliary body for the Soviet secret police.

“Shield and Sword of the Party”

The STASI’s sole purpose was to keep the Communist Party in power.

To maintain power for forty years when their people were starving and preparing to flee, the Communist Party had to be exceptionally competent at crowd control and undermining anti-state militants.

However, public street violence and assassinations did not help the Party’s reputation, therefore the Ministry of State Security had to go outside the box.

Previously known as the “Schild und Schvert der Partei” (Shield and Sword of the Party), the German abbreviation for these covert police force was STASI. Their sole objective was to keep the Communist Party in power.

How? It did not matter to them.

The scope of STASI assignments was extensive. She worked as an overseas spy for the secret service.

It partnered (and competed) with secret police agencies from “socialist brother countries,” such as Hungary and Poland.

In the event of a conflict, the STASI prepared sabotage attacks and attempted to influence politicians and the media in Western countries.

Simultaneously, the STASI sought to prevent foreign secret agencies from sabotaging and espionaging the GDR. He also arranged and handled military agreements with states that supported the GDR, such as Syria’s dictatorial regime.

The STASI, working as the secret police, prepared “top secret” reports on the state of things and mood for SED leadership in the same way as a covert opinion research organisation would. In 1986 alone, he completed 12 million security checks. These background checks were required for permission to go abroad, seek a career in the GDR, or obtain a student visa.

However, the STASI served as a “ideological police” force. He agreed with opinions considered “wrong” by the SED state.

“Wrong”? Well…

Their primary objectives were keeping the opposition’s members hidden from the public eye and safeguarding the party’s and GDR’s survival and reputation.

As a result, it scared others with opposing beliefs, followed its own people, and had an impact on their lives.

She listened to people, searched mail and apartments, and created illogical strategies to discredit dissenters, hinder them from getting employment, and dismantle opposition networks of friends.

She committed significant violations of both civil and human rights.

The STASI operated as an instrument for life control, intimidation, and surveillance all at once. The victims they damaged are still coping with psychological consequences of their deconstruction tactics.

“Company” and “Listen and Watch”

The STASI was colloquially known as “Listen and Watch” or “Company.”

Without a warrant, the STASI might summon individuals, detain them, and exert pressure on them.

The authoritarian ruling state party SED utilised it as the “shield and sword of the party” to meticulously monitor its own people and execute its right to power through brutality.

As a result, the ministry reported directly to the SED’s General Secretary as a military organisation, rather than the GDR Council of Ministers.

Scary STASI facts “Octopus”: They can be found almost anywhere.

At its peak, the STASI employed 91,000 individuals.

Approximately one out of every thirty residents worked for the STASI.

Their tentacles looked like those of an octopus.

More than one-third of East Germans, or 5.6 million, had an open STASI file and were either being monitored or suspected.

An extra 500,000 people submitted information to the STASI. East Germans lived in continual fear due to rigors monitoring and infiltration.

You never knew who you could trust. However, most of them were ignorant of the magnitude of these operations until the Berlin Wall fell.

Gaslighting first, or before gaslighting

In the 1950s, repression was carried out through physical torture.

However, in order to gain international acceptance, East Germany’s secret police had to become more discreet in the early 1970s. STASI was known for its fertile gaslighting.

The purpose of the Zersetzung, as previously stated, was to “shut down” any activist people or groups who constituted a threat to the Party.

Zersetzung is a modified military term for disintegration or corrosion.

Police analysed all relevant evidence, including interviews with neighbours, family members, and other contacts, to determine how it directly impacted the person’s mental health.

The STASI relentlessly damaged the life of anybody who appeared to challenge the Communist Party’s leadership or legitimacy.

Agents would spread rumours about their targets, leave pornographic material in their mailboxes, move belongings in their apartments, or repeatedly deflate bicycles.

Others have had life-changing experiences: people labelled as subversives have been denied higher education, made unemployed, and confined in asylums.

Many people suffered significant social stigma, economic loss, and long-term psychological distress as a result of the STASI’s lies.

Erotica and Nichte. Erotica, not at all.

Erotica, whether printed or filmed, was strictly prohibited in East Germany and was used to highlight the West’s decadence and wickedness.

However, STASI outlawed pornography and went on to film and produce her own series of pornographic films.

From 1982 to 1989, the official pornographic division employed 160 people, including 12 amateur enthusiasts.

Communist Party leaders and military officers attended secret film premieres. However, their attendance was documented for blackmail purposes.

Propaganda begins at an early age

East Germany’s public schools acted as police training grounds. Small children cut and paint paper dolls wearing gas masks and holding AK-47s. Hitler Youth-style groups were formed for schoolchildren.

There were no social networks at the time, therefore messages were delivered to villages and towns by “information rockets”.

People were taught that the Berlin Wall was a deterrent to the “West German separatist state” that was striving to destabilise their communist government.

Psychological operations were used to glorify the East German socialist state while condemning the immoral, pleasure-seeking capitalist West.

Hohenschonhausen – STASI Remand Prison

The headquarters remand jail of the newly formed East German Ministry of State Security (MfS) was a Soviet subterranean prison near Berlin that opened in 1951. In the 1950s, more than 11,000 people suspected of threatening the communist state were imprisoned here.

Those jailed include the leaders of the June 17, 1953 insurrection, as well as Jehovah’s Witnesses. However, many others were detained by reformist communists for months in cells resembling tombstones.

More than 900 former inmates spoke about the atrocities committed at the Hohenschonhausen jail.

However, the location of the prison was kept secret while it was operational.

The territory was represented by a blank gap on the city map and was not officially recognised. Because few individuals escaped, much of the country functioned as an open-air prison.

Sophisticated techniques devoid of human decency prompted doctors, engineers, and other professional workers to flee their comfortable and secure existence in the German Democratic Republic, also known as East Germany, and seek work in West Berlin or West Germany.

East Germans were forbidden from leaving the country for “security” reasons. Many of those who attempted were killed or imprisoned.

The File: Database

STASI collected a large amount of data, which was meticulously documented and stored in databases.

Thousands of people were targeted as “troublemakers” against the government, and as a result, their homes and cars (if they had any) were searched, their letters were opened and copied, and their actions were videotaped or secretly recorded.

Each of these records was kept in the STASI’s personal file.

Because there were no computers or other contemporary conveniences, you can only imagine the massive quantity of human machinery, information, and paper used at the time.

So far, the STASI archives have produced hundreds of millions of data, 39 million index cards, 1.75 million photographs, 2,800 reels of video, and 28,400 audio recordings.

Furthermore, several million were eliminated prior to publishing.

In 1992, millions of East Germans’ secret STASI files were made available to the public for inspection.

Three million people have requested access to their information, with wildly varying results.

Twenty years later, many former “subjects” of STASI investigation or surveillance only learned from these files that their wives, parents, children, or lifelong acquaintances had contributed material against them.

The STASI secret police had practically unlimited power since they had so much personal information on every citizen and so much sway over institutions (such as the ability to buy a car, acquire a job, or attend college).

They have socially paralysed you rather than arresting you.

Looking at all of this, is it feasible to draw parallels with contemporary events in terms of how much social networks assist us, how much and how someone else uses them, and how much data they collect about each of us?

Traditions “Do you observe anything?

Say something: citizen informants, acquiring personal information without a warrant, and assuming guilt all appear suspiciously similar.

This post was written by Mario Bekes